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[kur-nl] /ˈkɜr nl/
an officer in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps ranking between lieutenant colonel and brigadier general: corresponding to a captain in the U.S. Navy.
a commissioned officer of similar rank in the armed forces of some other nations.
an honorary title bestowed by some Southern states, as to those who have brought honor to the state, prominent businesspersons, visiting celebrities, or the like:
When the vice president visited the state he was made a Kentucky colonel.
Older Use. (in the South) a title of respect prefixed to the name of distinguished elderly men.
Origin of colonel
1540-50; < Middle French < Italian colon(n)ello, equivalent to colonn(a) column + -ello < Latin -ellus diminutive suffix; so named because such an officer originally headed the first column or company of a regiment
Related forms
colonelcy, noun
Pronunciation note
[kur-nl] /ˈkɜr nl/ (Show IPA)
with its medial l pronounced as [r] /r/ illustrates one source for the apparent vagaries of English spelling: divergence between a word's orthographic development and its established pronunciation. In this case, English borrowed from French two variant forms of the same word, one pronounced with medial and final [l] /l/ and a second reflecting dissimilation of the first [l] /l/ to [r] /r/ . After a period of competition, the dissimilated form triumphed in pronunciation, while the spelling colonel became the orthographic standard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for colonel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Oh, colonel, help me to guard against so dreadful a calamity.

  • "You ought to be able to answer that question better than I," replied the colonel.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • "It seems to me a very good arrangement," said the colonel to his wife.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • The colonel threw his cloak about his shoulders, and hastened down to the carpenter's.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • The doctor, however, went at once into the bedroom, and the colonel followed him.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
British Dictionary definitions for colonel


an officer of land or air forces junior to a brigadier but senior to a lieutenant colonel
Derived Forms
colonelcy, colonelship, noun
Word Origin
C16: via Old French, from Old Italian colonnello column of soldiers, from colonnacolumn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for colonel

1540s, coronell, from Middle French coronel (16c.), modified by dissimilation from Italian colonnella "commander of a column of soldiers at the head of a regiment," from compagna colonella "little column company," from Latin columna "pillar" (see hill). English spelling modified 1580s in learned writing to conform with the Italian form (via translations of Italian military manuals), and pronunciations with "r" and "l" coexisted 17c.-18c., but the earlier pronunciation prevailed. Spanish coronel, from Italian, shows a similar evolution by dissimilation.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for colonel


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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